I'm beginning to realize that with accepting technology comes some difficult choices. This is probably a reality that many of you have already faced. When you buy a new piece of equipment or update a computer, you have the challenge of determining the item's economic payback. With all of the emphasis on corporate ethics and sustainable management practices, determining paybacks must be more difficult than in the era in which I managed.

I base this comment on my recent capital acquisition. I'm now the owner of a handheld GPS navigational device. I believe the engineers in Kansas who created the device have no idea what a moral problem they have created for me. While there's no doubt the device can be a timesaver, I'm beginning to wonder how best to use it to my economic advantage.

My GPS device gives me the option to select a route generated by one of two constraints. Do I wish to travel the fastest route? Or do I wish to travel the shortest route? My fascination with using this technology has been transformed into trying to answer a moral question: How do I balance what I believe my time is worth compared to the economics of car ownership?

On many trips, the difference between the options is minimal. But when traveling in metropolitan Chicago, this isn't so. Those who travel in the fast lane often find themselves traveling almost double the miles on a high-speed expressway to avoid the time-consuming problems of stop-and-go city streets.

On my first few trips, I automatically opted for the fastest route. Entering my middle-age years, I'd been convinced that I need to live in life's fast lane. I need to treasure each moment before my time runs out.

But now I'm not so sure. Shouldn't I opt for the more scenic route instead of just watching miles of precast soundwalls passing by? And then I began to question the economics of the faster route. Isn't fuel usage more economical while traveling at slower speeds? And then there's the warranty question. If I always take the faster route, won't I hasten the end of my free repair? And finally, since the value of a car is based on its odometer reading, by traveling the faster route, am I not lessening its value at a higher rate than opting for the shortest route?

I'm sure each of you has answered these technology questions for yourself. But as manufacturers incorporate more of these devices into your equipment, there are more questions to answer.

As always, we aim to help. In the next few weeks, we will be posting our impressions of some of the newest technology we uncovered at last week's CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas. Our staff visited hundreds of exhibitors and discovered myriad innovative improvements on the tools, equipment, and supplies found in all of your operations. Please return to our Web site to learn more about these technological improvements.

Also feel free to answer this question in an e-mail: Given that I'm not going to be late for an appointment, should I program my GPS device to take the fastest route or the shortest route?

Rick Yelton
Editor In Chief
ryelton@hanleywood.com